ROCK FALLS – Tuesday night was Volley for the Cure Night at Tabor Gym, but Byron had no cure for Rock Falls' dominance.
The Rockets overwhelmed the Tigers 25-17, 25-13 in a key Big Northern West clash.
As good as Rock Falls was in the first set, it was even better in the second. The Rockets (24-10, 9-2), who lost 25-20, 25-23 at Byron on Sept. 12, built an 18-3 in Set 2, thanks in large part to their defensive effort.
While Rock Falls was diving and digging up seemingly every ball, it was also doing just fine at the net.
Back-to-back blocks by Jordan Giddings (4 blocks, 3 kills) gave the Rockets a quick 6-1 advantage in the second set. A block and kill from Cierra Wilder sandwiched around a kill by Linsey Brown (6 kills) boosted Rock Falls' lead to 10-2.
After another kill by Brown, freshman Bailey O'Brien (8 kills) reeled off three straight kills to make it 14-3. A pair of kills from Morgan Mammosser (10 digs, 6 assists, 4 kills) ballooned the difference to 18-3, and the rout was on.
"We didn't expect it to be that easy, because we lost to them the last time," said Brown, who had five of her six kills in Set 2. "We dove for balls that I didn't think we could get. [Coach Sheila Mammosser] preaches defense. We love defense. We practice it all the time."
Down the stretch, Rock Falls emptied its bench and continued to roll against the Byron regulars.
O'Brien was the Rockets' go-to girl in Game 1, putting down five of her eight kills. The freshman has become a key contributor.
"It was a little scary and hard to fit in at first," O'Brien, who also had seven digs, said of playing at the varsity level as a ninth-grader. "I felt kind of weird playing with them. It was a really big change. I'm getting more confident than I was."
"At the beginning, she was a little bit gun-shy," coach Mammosser said. "She's come a long way. She's really blooming."
Addesyn Nailor contributed 20 assists and eight digs for the Rockets, while Bree Ceelletti added seven digs.
"We really picked up our intensity," coach Mammosser said. "We made defensive plays that I haven't seen lately. We had that spark, and we were digging and diving."
Byron (19-7, 7-2) got eight kills from freshman Brooklyn Seiler. The Tigers only led for the first five points of the match.
Byron, Rock Falls and Rockford Lutheran are all tied with two losses in the conference.
Star of the match: Bailey O'Brien, RF, team-high 8 kills, 7 digs
Key performers: Brooklyn Seiler, Byron, team-high 8 kills; Linsey Brown, RF, 6 kills; Morgan Mammosser, RF, 10 digs, 6 assists, 4 kills
Up next: Stillman Valley at Rock Falls, 6 p.m. Oct. 17